Green’s Dictionary of Slang

tea n.

[reflecting the colour of tea without milk]

1. strong liquor; often as cold tea under cold adj., brandy.

[UK]Egan Life in London (1869) 278: Matters of etiquette being adjusted, it was not long before ‘the tea’ was introduced.
[US]St Louis Globe-Democrat 19 Jan. n.p.: They nominate ‘bottled electricity,’ ‘lemonade with a stick in it,’ ‘jig-water,’ ‘budge,’ ‘bilge-water,’ ‘bug-juice,’ ‘rat-poison,’ ‘fusel-oil,’ ‘red-eye,’ ‘liquid ointment,’ ‘cut nails,’ ‘hard head,’ ‘benzine,’ ‘nitro-glycerine,’ ‘oil,’ ‘tea,’ ‘eye-water,’ ‘chain- lightning.’ [...] they all want the same article, alcohol, more or less diluted.
[UK]Partridge DSUE (1984) 1208/1: from ca. 1690.

2. urine [1970s+ use is gay].

[UK]J. Gay Trivia (1716) Bk II 20: Who ’gainst the Centry’s Box discharge their Tea.
[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 194: tea 1. (Brit gay sl) urine.

3. (US) whisky.

[UK]J.J. Hissey Holiday on Road 370: We had a camp-kettle with us [...] Tea or coffee were always at our command, Scotch tea also (i.e. whisky) .
[Aus]Sun. Times (Perth) 15 Nov. 4/7: Should we run a shop / Which must sell no liquor / ‘Tea’ could mean a drop / Of illicit shicker / [...] / Whisky, beer or brandy.
[US]S. Lewis Babbitt (1974) 83: There’s a lot of smart college professors and tea-guzzling slobs in this burg.
[US]Van Vechten Nigger Heaven 158: Have some tea! Adora passed Howard a silver flask.
[US]J.D. MacDonald All These Condemned (2001) 135: Hit the tea and steal liquor.
[UK]P. Theroux Murder in Mount Holly (1999) 64: Oo! You like your tea, don’t you now?
[US]J. Sayles Union Dues (1978) 265: ‘There was a man who lived for his tea.’ ‘That he did.’.
[US](con. 1967) Bunch & Cole Reckoning for Kings (1989) 17: He watched carefully until the old man had drunk his third cup of ‘tea.’.

4. in drug uses [the OED citation from the Boston Sunday Herald (26 March 1967), ‘Marijuana…when brewed with hot water’ is prob. a teasing hippie n.2 (3) gulling a foolish journalist].

(a) marijuana.

[US]Benny Goodman & His Orchestra [song title] ‘Texas Tea Party.’.
[US]Pittsburgh Courier (PA) 15 May 20/1: Sax-playing Scotty [...] was picked up by the FBI after telling his snatch board that [...] he liked his ‘tea’ in sticks.
[UK]Fads & Fancies 1 3: For those who don’t know, marijuana (or tea or weed or gauge — there is a whole new language here) is a drug [...] smoked in cigarettes known as reefers or mezzes or muggles. If you are in the habit of smoking [...] you are a ‘viper’ and when you are experiencing the full effects of the drug you are ‘high’.
[US]Kerouac On The Road (1972) 83: You could smell tea, weed, I mean marijuana, floating in the air.
[Aus]‘Geoffrey Tolhurst’ Flat 4 King’s Cross (1966) 102: ‘Pot?’ I asked. ‘Tea. Marijuana. Hashish’.
[UK]P. Willmott Adolescent Boys of East London (1969) 175: A group of us drink whisky and smoke tea [marijuana].
[US]Cab Calloway Of Minnie the Moocher and Me 158: We had guys who smoked tea all the time.
[US](con. 1930s) Courtwright & Des Jarlais Addicts Who Survived 240: In those days it was called ‘gage,’ ‘weed,’ or ‘tea.’.
[US](con. early 1950s) J. Ellroy L.A. Confidential 54: Half the people in the Industry blow tea from time to time.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 18 Mar. 3: Louis Armstong [...] used ‘muggles’ and ‘tea.’.

(b) a marijuana cigarette.

[US]Bob Howard & His Boys ‘If You’re a Viper’ [lyrics] Light a ‘tea’ and let it be / If you’re a viper.
[UK]Marihuana Problem in City of N.Y. in Johnson Indian Hemp (1952) 34: The common names for the cigarettes are: muggles, reefers [...] tea, gage and sticks.
[US]‘Iceberg Slim’ Pimp 124: Light a tea and let it be.

(c) phencyclidine.

[US]ONDCP Street Terms 21: Tea — Marijuana; PCP.

In compounds

tea-canister (n.)

a brandy flask.

[UK]F. Francis Newton Dogvane (1888) 184: Phew! Pass us the tea-canister .
tea-head (n.) [-head sfx (4)]

(drugs) a marijuana smoker; also attrib.

[US]Kerouac letter 24 June in Charters I (1995) 197: I start thinking about the mad beret-characters who actually make these movies in crazy California (the tea-head Mitchums, the horn-rimmed directors).
[US]‘William Lee’ Junkie (1966) 28: She knew a lot of teaheads.
[US]J. Rechy City of Night 96: The small-time pushers, the teaheads, the sad panhandlers.
[US]I. Rosenthal Sheeper 8: My fifteen-year-old teahead friend. [Ibid.] 187: He is [...] toking his joint like a pro, a true teahead.
[US]E.E. Landy Underground Dict. (1972).
[US]H. Harrison Bill [...] on the Planet of Robot Slaves (1991) 45: I am going to do a little catching up with you teaheads, dopeheads and boozeheads.
[UK]Guardian Rev. 12 May 6: His hellish descent into a world of perverts [...] and wall-eyed tea-heads.
tea-hound (n.) [-hound sfx]

1. (orig. US black) a marijuana smoker; also attrib.

[US]P.E. Miller Down Beat’s Yearbook of Swing n.p.: tea hound : a marijuana smoker.
[US](con. early 1930s) C. McKay Harlem Glory (1990) 43: They were far removed from the [...] tea-hounds of the reefer joints.
[US]Hughes & Bontemps Book of Negro Folklore 362: Sister Lou got frantic and all in a rage, / Like a tea hound dame on some frantic gage.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) Décharné Straight from the Fridge Dad 185: Tea hound A marijuana smoker.

2. see also SE compounds below.

tea-joint (n.) [sense 3a above + joint n. (3b)]

(US) a place, e.g. a bar or club, where marijuana can be smoked.

[US]N. Algren Neon Wilderness (1986) 149: Doc had me take him to Dreamland then, a tea joint with a cigar-store front on South Dearborn.
tea man (n.) (also T-man)

(US) a smoker of marijuana.

[US]D. Maurer ‘Lang. of the Und. Narcotic Addict’ Pt 2 in Lang. Und. (1981) 110/1: tea-man. A reefer-man or marijuana addict.
[US]Goldin et al. DAUL 220/2: Tea-man. A smoker or purveyor of marijuana.
[US](con. 1940s) J. Resko Reprieve 237: An addict is a viper, a snake, a goof, a T-man. In Dannemora we had mostly vipers.
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore 182: Tea hound [...] a smoker of marihuana cigarettes [...] Tea man – Same as Tea hound.
tea pad (n.) [pad n.2 (2)]

(drugs) a place for smoking marijuana.

[US]Herbert & Spencer Jitterbug Jamboree Song Book 33: teapad. anyplace where they smoked weed.
[US]LaGuardia Committee Report on Marihuana [Internet] The investigator would bring up the subject of smoking. This would invariably lead to the suggestion that they obtain some marihuana cigarettes. They would seek a ‘tea-pad,’ and if it was closed the smoker and our investigator would calmly resume their previous activity.
[US]Anslinger & Tompkins Traffic In Narcotics 315: tea-pad. A marihuana smoking den.
[US]J.E. Schmidt Narcotics Lingo and Lore.
[US]R.R. Lingeman Drugs from A to Z (1970) 240: tea pad Rooms in apartments or pup tents on the roof in Harlem where marijuana was sold and users gathered and smoked marijuana communally in the 1930s and 1940s.
[US](con. 1940s–60s) H. Huncke ‘Detroit Redhead’ in Eve. Sun Turned Crimson (1998) 109: I took over Bozo’s apartment and turned it into a tea pad and thieves’ den.
E. Damerson in Dusted Mag. at Trikont.com [Internet] Poring over these jazz sides now, one gets hep to the mixed emotions that fogged up the tea pad as youngsters of all sorts got their first blast.
tea party (n.)

1. a drinking binge.

[UK]L. Thomas Woodfill of the Regulars 41: Then he went on a big drunk — ‘tea parties,’ that gang called ’em.

2. (drugs) a gathering of people for the purpose of communal smoking of marijuana.

[US](con. 1938) C. Chessman Cell 2455 111: That night they had a ‘tea party.’ Even in those days marijuana was plentiful.
[US]H. Selby Jr Last Exit to Brooklyn (1966) 13: She had come home one morning with one of her friends after a three day tea party.
[US]ONDCP Street Terms 21: Tea Party — To smoke marijuana.
tea stick (n.) (also stick) [stick n. (6)]

(US drugs) a marijuana cigarette.

[US]S. Longstreet Real Jazz Old and New 104: He mixed with vipers on the reefer trail [...] but there isn’t much record that he went for tea-sticks himself.
tea-timers (n.) [the need to wear sunglasses to hide one’s marijuana-affected pupils]

(US gay) dark glasses.

[US]B. Rodgers Queens’ Vernacular 117: sunglasses [...] tea-timers.
[US]R.O. Scott Gay Sl. Dict. [Internet].

In phrases

tea up (v.) [SE tea/sense 3 above]

to get drunk.

[US]R.W. Brown ‘Word-List From Western Indiana’ in DN III:viii 591: tea up, v. To become intoxicated.
[US]Ade Hand-made Fables 269: [She] had read somewhere that during the Alcoholic Age the Victims would tea up in order to Drown their Sorrows.

SE in slang uses

In compounds

tea fight (n.)

1. an evening party.

[US]J.C. Neal Charcoal Sketches (1865) 77: It’s a complete nuisance to be so tall [...] if you go to a tea-fight, the people are always tumbling over your trotters, and breaking their noses, which is what young ladies ain’t partial to.
[US]Knickerbocker (NY) Nov. 534: [I] wish to hand in my experience of a small tea-fight, in which I was bombarded by a piano.
[UK]Hotten Sl. Dict.
[UK]Carlisle Patriot 29 Dec. 6/4: Sir Wilfred Lawson at a ‘Tea Fight’. At the annual soirée of the Kirkeswald Literary Institution [...] Sir Wilfred Lawson was one of the speakers.
[NZ]Observer and Freelance (Wellington) 29 Aug. 9/4: The gem of the evening at the tea-fight was a laughing duet by P. and Sally.
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 23 Aug. 5/3: One of the most famous, but exceedingly modest divines, who attended a ‘tea fight’ one evening [etc].
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 30 Apr. 3/7: Aesleyan minister [...] attended an anniversary tea-fight.
[Aus]Sydney Sportsman (Surry Hills, NSW) 17 Oct. 1/3: Another Tommy, by way of a gee, said it was a dead head ticket for a tea fight.

2. a tea party; note ad hoc vars. in 1906, 1914 cits.

[UK]Hood’s Mag. (London) 40 July-Dec. 357: Mr. Juniper Tipple did stop; and his prowess at the ‘tea-fight’ was a thing to marvel at. His eloquence was as soft and soothing as the buttered toast that hissed beside them on the hob.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Adventures of Mr Verdant Green (1982) II 174: I don’t want to ask any old dowager I happen to fall in with at a tea-fight, whether she believes all the crammers that Herodotus tells us.
[UK]R. Whiteing Mr Sprouts, His Opinions 162: On Wednesday we ’ad a tea fight.
[UK]‘Cuthbert Bede’ Little Mr. Bouncer 14: You look as if you had been at a tea-fight or muffin-worry and had taken more hot toast than was good for your digestion.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 26 June 3/2: The officer in question is a ‘curled darling’ at tea-fights.
[UK]Northampton Mercury 6 Jan. 9/3: A Monster Blue Ribbon Tea — What was probably the largest ‘tea-fight’ that has ever taken place in Northampton was held [...] in the Corn Exchange.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 11 Apr. 11/4: A local preacher died in the topmost fury of a tea-fight in New Zealand town, the other week. […] / He lived his life well; / His death was the quickest / On record – he fell / Where the muffins were thickest!
[Aus]Dead Bird (Sydney) 7 June 4/1: Peace, sobriety, virtue and other things will be blended with politics and tea-fights.
[UK]R. Whiteing No. 5 John Street 53: ‘Well, kind of a tea-fight,’ he returns [...] I look to Tilda for confirmation. ‘Come to tea next Sunday?’ says the girl.
[US]Wash. Post 15 Jan. 4/3: The young man of tender years [...] has a vocabulary which would put Webster to shame [...] Sis is ‘dotty’ over her beau, chases ‘tea fights’ [...].
[Aus]Burra Record (SA) 25 Apr. 5/5: They Say [...] That at the next tea-fuddle a regiment of soldiers are going to patrol the Booborowie Church.
[Aus]Burra Record (SA) 2 Jan. 3/5: They Say [...] That with all the troubled waters at Hanson it can knock up a cheque of over £14 at it tea fight.
[UK]E. Pugh Cockney At Home 159: If I go to the early supper there’s bound to be ham-sandwiches at the tea-fight, which I’m partial to; whereas [...] if I do go to the tea-fight there won’t be any ham at all.
[US]Ade ‘The New Fable of the Lonesome Camp’ in Ade’s Fables 263: But she had taken a peek at the Palm Rooms and the powdered Lackeys and the Tea Riot at the Plaza, and she was panting inwardly.
[US]Ade ‘The New Fable of the Uplifter’ in Ade’s Fables 100: At every Tea Battle and Cookie Carnival he was hailed as the Big Hero.
[US]E. Pound letter 4 May in Paige (1971) 176: The matter re pavilion was broached at a tea fight 3 days before I left Paris.
[UK]F. Bason Diary I (1950) 33: Yesterday I went to a party [...] It was sort of a little tea fight (at four) and there were ten people there.
[UK]Dover Express 11 Mar. 9/4: They say that Upper Biggin Street ought to have the customary tea fight on the completion of the repairs to their street.
tea fighter (n.)

(Aus.) one who attends a tea party (and by implication dislikes alcohol).

[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 15 Aug. 7/1: If these whey-blooded petitioners have their way, no man will be able to take his ease in his inn without running the risk of being hustled off to the gaol or the lunatic asylum, and the tea-fighter and muffin-worrier will reign alone in the land.
tea-hound (n.) (also tea-guzzler)(US)

1. a man who frequents tea parties.

Howitzer (West Point) 109: Leland Stanford Hobbs, Jr. — Yes, this is the pride of Jersey City, West Point's most famous athlete, shining social light, teahound, and ‘wounded hero’!
[US]O.O. McIntyre ‘New York Day by Day’ 4 Sept. [synd. col.] The wrist watch used to be the insignia of a pomaded tea guzzler, but now it sometimes means arough neck, horny fists and hair on the chest.
Columbian Eve. Missourian (MO) 19 Nov. 3/4: Teahounds infesting Missouri University [...] It has but lately come to Columbia and is thought to have evolved [...] from fop, dude, lounge-lizard and couch-cootie.
[US]S. Lewis Arrowsmith 454: By golly, I need somebody like him, with [...] all these tea-hounds around me!
[US](con. 1920s) J.T. Farrell Judgement Day in Studs Lonigan (1936) 599: It’s the game for tea-hounds and parlour athletes.

2. a womanizer.

[US]Howitzer 152: He became so dainty and spoony that the farmer boy was soon lost to view, and we saw rather the apparent tea-hound and parlor-snake.
[US]O.O. McIntyre Bits of New York Life 20 Dec. [synd. col.] Husbands who should be elsewhere, and the professional tea hounds.
[US]Black Mask Aug. III 15: The tea hound of a husband.
[US]M.C. McPhee ‘College Sl.’ in AS III:2 131: A student who spends much time in the society of the ladies is ‘a heavy-cake’ or ‘a tea hound.’.

3. see also sl. compounds above.

teapot (n.)

see separate entry.

teashop (n.)

(US gay) an all-woman bar catering to lesbians.

[US](con. 1930s) L. Faderman Odd Girls & Twilight Lovers 107: A few bars congenial to lesbians still existed in the ’30s [...] There were even several ‘tea shops’that catered to lesbians on the Near North Side of Chicago.
teaspoon (n.)

see separate entry.

tea squall (n.)

(US) a tea party.

[US]D. Crockett in Meine Crockett Almanacks (1955) 7: She was at a tea-squall at one of the neighbors.
[US]T. Haliburton Clockmaker III 231: One time we had a tea-squall to our house, and Susan handed about the tea.
J. Brainard Lecture upon Narcotic Stimulants 12: The Boston Tea party, where the Young Gentelmen [sic] made the Tea in a hurry, with cold water, (and salt at that) [...] There were no women at that tea squall, and the men ran the thing.
[US]Yankee Notions 12 300: ‘Feast ov reson, and flo ov soal;’ I've seen this afore now, at a tea squall ov wimmin folks.
[UK]R. Rowe Friends & Acquaintances 137: Theres a swell come to Hoppety's tea-squall,' said the bricklayer's labourer with a grin.
tea-towel holder (n.) [the small round plastic holder that a teatowel is pushed into resembles the anus]

the anus.

[UK]Roger’s Profanisaurus in Viz 87 Dec. n.p.: tea towel holder euph. Anus. From the 1950s plastic ‘finger poke style’ kitchen accessory.
personal correspondence: tea towel holder – the anus. Derived from the fact that those round plastic holders that you push tea towels into resemble the anus.

In phrases

give them away with a pound of tea (also give them away with a pound of tripe)

1. a phr. used to deride something, or someone, considered of little or no value, e.g. ‘Expensive? He gives them away…’.

[J.M. Russell Squire’s Hat 171: The nice little stone-ware teapot ‘to be given away with a pound of tea’].
[UK]Western Times 22 June 4/2: Bull’s Shopman, you see, is in generous mood, / As ‘wonderful bargains’ his wares are arrayed, / And treasures — no wonder you jump with glee! / Are ‘Given away with a Pound of Tea!’.
[UK]Sporting Times 7 Feb. 4/4: Mincing Lane Friend — You deserve to be given away with a pound of tea.
[UK]Bath Chron. 9 Apr. 3/3: Mr Oliver exclaimed: Don’t they give them away with a pound of tea (laughter).
[Aus]E. Dyson Spats’ Fact’ry (1922) 91: ‘Ellen Tommy!’ wailed the rapid marrier, ‘carn’t a man give hisself away with a pound iv tripe?’.
[UK]Hull Dly Mail 19 June 4/5: What is the good of upholding an Empire that seeks to give itself away for a pound of tea.
[UK]Western Morn. News 19 Apr. 11/2: The Government would find that the country would not accept Tory policy, even when given away with a pound of tea.
[UK]J. Franklyn Cockney 273: Disparagement of a thing or a person is contained in, ‘They give ’em away with a pound of tea.’.

2. an ironic reply by a criminal to questions referring to the origins of obviously stolen goods in his possession,e.g. ‘Stolen goods, officer? No. Give them away…’.

[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 185: Give them away with a pound of tea, they Ironic explanation when asked to account for the possession of an obviously stolen and valuable article.
not for all the tea in China (also not for all the rice in China, ...meat in China, not for King Dick, ...mink, ...monkey nuts, ...a tinker’s)

(orig. Aus.) on no account, no chance whatsoever; occas. in positive use.

[US]J.S. Wood Yale Yarns 60: Haley can’t pitch for a tinker’s —.
[Aus]Bulletin (Sydney) 12 Dec. 16/3: ‘Don’t call me your God – I wouldn’t be your blessed god for all the meat in China, old man,’ I said flippantly.
[UK]E. Pugh Cockney At Home 282: ‘Can’t sing for monkey nuts!’ he said.
[US]Wash. Post 2 Sept. 6: The good word from Dade Park is Eloise, which will run for all the tea in China in the sixth cant. [Ibid.] 19 Dec. 18: Mickey D. will go for all the tea in China this aft down at Kenney Park.
[Aus]T. Wood Cobbers 26: Some men here wouldn’t leave the place for all the tea in China.
[Aus]Cusack & James Come in Spinner (1960) 46: I wouldn’t let ’im see me in a thing like that. Not for all the rice in China.
[UK]A. Buckeridge Jennings’ Diary 219: I’m not opening this trunk again for all the tea in China.
[Aus]W. Dick Bunch of Ratbags 121: He scared me so much that I wouldn’t have cried for all the tea in China.
[US]F. Hilaire Thanatos 181: Up yours, eunoch. I wouldn’t go to bed with you for mink.
[US](con. 1916) G. Swarthout Tin Lizzie Troop (1978) 143: ‘Captain, aren’t you going in with me?’ Dinkle entreated. ‘Not for all the tea in China, my boy.’.
[UK]Barltrop & Wolveridge Muvver Tongue 89: A person averring that he would not be persuaded to do something by anyone says: ‘Not for King Dick I wouldn’t!’.
[UK]A. Higgins Donkey’s Years 184: On she would not go for all the tea in China; no argument could shift her.
take tea with (v.) [orig. colonial phr. take tea with, to associate with, esp. when the relations are mainly hostile]

1. (Aus.) to consort with someone, to associate with someone.

[UK]Partridge DSUE (8th edn) 1198: since ca. 1880.

2. (UK Und.) to outsmart a clever person or to defeat someone in authority.

[UK]D. Powis Signs of Crime 204: Tea with, take Act with covert impertinence towards someone (usually someone in authority), or to take advantage of someone; to outwit a clever person (not used in respect of ‘mugs’).
tea and turn out

a phr. used to indicate that there is no tea; i.e. one is simply SE turned out.

[UK]Sporting Mag. Dec. XXI 163/2: In a pleasant village near the metropolis, noted for its constant ‘tea and turn out parties.’.
J. Malcolm Tales of Field & Flood 133: The evening entertainments were of that kind denominated ‘Tea and Turn-out,’ — a mode of treating one’s friends having the show of hospitality, but denying the power thereof.
[UK]Figaro in London 23 July 123/1: Mr. Horace Twiss invited several friends to a tea and turn-out last Tuesday. Owing to some unforeseen difficulty in the purchase of the tea [...] his friends preferred dispensing with the tea.
T.H. Bailey Songs & Ballads 2 235: There’s nothing like tea-and-turn-out.
[UK]J. Ware Passing Eng. of the Victorian Era 241/2: Tea and turn out (Peoples’, 19 cent.). A roundabout way of saying there is no supper.
wet the tea leaves (v.) (also wet the tea)

to make tea.

[UK]R.F. Walond Paddiana I 149: Blood an’ ouns! will I wet the tay now, ma’am?
[US]A. Irvine My Lady of the Chimney Corner 184: Mary ‘wet’ a pot of tea and warmed up a few farrels of fadge.
[UK]P. O’Donnell Islanders (1933) 84: Susan Manus made tea for them all, and she without knowing the joy Mary Doogan thought to take out of baking that flour and wetting that tea.
[Ire](con. 1890s) S. O’Casey Pictures in the Hallway 6: Johnny’s mother had wet the tea, and was sitting thoughtfully by the fire.
[Ire]B. Behan Scarperer (1966) 54: He was annoyed, having just wet a pot of tea for himself and his assistant.
[Ire]J.B. Keane Bodhrán Makers 283: Go downstairs, woman, [...] and wet us a sup of tea.
[Ire]G. Coughlan Everyday Eng. and Sl. [Internet] Wet the tea (v): make tea.

In exclamations

tea-oh!

(N.Z.) a call to indicate that it is time for a tea-break; thus as n.

[NZ]Whitcombe’s Modern Junior Dict. 407: Tea-oh In Australia and New Zealand, an interval for tea during working hours [DNZE].
[NZ]Encyc. N.Z. II 679: The back country runs have quite a vocabulary of their own [...] Amongst these are [...] terms like cow paddock [...] and teaoh [DNZE].